By Tom Hatfield
The S.C. House recently passed legislation (H. 4344) that would allow Beaufort County to increase the sales tax by 1 percent to promote tourism in the county (mainly for Hilton Head).
This is similar to legislation passed last year for Horry County (Myrtle Beach). The legislation allows that up to 30 percent of the additional revenue collectedcould be used for property tax relief.
Unlike Horry County, municipality town councils, rather than referendum, would decide how this would be imposed and spent.
Proponents for this legislation state that they have been “outgunned” by competitive counties and states in attracting tourists. Between $4.5 million and $9 million would be spent by the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
However, typical of most government sponsored organizations, the chamber has looked first for more revenue and has not considered reducing their costs.
For example, according to a recent newspaper article, last year they increased the salaries of their five top executives, with the top executive receiving an increase from $315,627 to $344,251 per year. He is probably one of the highest-paid commerce executives per-capita in the nation.
The following comes from a recent letter to the editor that appeared in the Hilton Head Island Packet, written by Hilton Head District 2 Town Councilmember Bill Harkins:
“The taxed-enough already (TEA) message is real! A 1 percent sales tax (except on groceries) is a 17 percent increase. Why should we punish with increased costs the tourists we are trying to attract? Reduce costs not continually increase revenues.
“Government should not use its taxing authority to pick winners and losers, as in one industry over another. Sales taxes are more of a burden to lower and middle income citizens. While tourism is important for Hilton Head, should we focus as much on it as Myrtle Beach?”
And all of this in the middle of a recession!
This reporter conducted straw polls amongst the citizens of Hilton Head in the past two weeks. After giving both sides of the story, NOT ONE person supported it.
Poor elected official decisions eventually have consequences. At the polls!
Tom Hatfield is a retired marketing executive living on Hilton Head. He is actively involved in the S.C. Charter School Movement and S.C. tax simplification issues.